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Lawmaker quits race in Ohio amid corruption probe

WASHINGTON -- Representative Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican whose links to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff put him at the center of a wide-ranging federal corruption investigation, announced yesterday that he was ending his campaign for reelection.

``Ultimately this decision came down to my family," the six-term congressman said in a statement on his campaign website. ``I must think of them first, and I can no longer put them through this ordeal."

Ney's withdrawal ends months of speculation about the man who more than any other lawmaker is linked to the web of campaign contributions, lavish favors, and legislative payoffs that has been exposed in the scandal surrounding Abramoff.

GOP drops bid to replace Tom DeLay on the ballot. A8.

Identified infamously as ``Representative No. 1" in Abramoff's January plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Ney allegedly accepted a raft of favors, including an all-expenses-paid golfing trip to Scotland, in exchange for helping Abramoff and his clients.

Ney has repeatedly maintained his his innocence, and vowed not to let the scandal derail his reelection bid.

But the congressman was under increasing pressure as his electoral prospects dimmed.

He was a prime target for Democrats, who need to pick up 15 seats in November to take control of the House of Representatives.

And his decision to quit the race added more uncertainty to highly competitive congressional elections taking place in the shadow of scandals that have driven Tom DeLay, former House Majority leader and Republican of Texas, from office.

Republicans in Ohio's 18th Congressional District, which stretches through the southeastern part of the state, will now have to select a new candidate before the Nov. 7 election.

Ney, 52, is the only member of Congress directly linked to allegations that Abramoff traded gifts for legislative favors.

Veteran state lawmaker Joy Padgett announced that she will seek the Republican nomination to replace Ney on the ballot.

She has been in the state Senate since 2004 and was in the State House from 1993 to 1999.

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